Small, Incremental Changes: How to keep to your new year resolutions

24 December 2019

When the end of a year comes around, a sudden fever takes hold of us. We suddenly realise that a new year is on its way, and that the present one is fading away. We think of what we managed to achieve in the passing year and often times the outcone of our thoughts are disappointing. We then decide what we want in the new year.

That is how new year resolutions are born. The new year can be compared to a beautiful and yet blank paint board. The imaginative artist within us can see in clear terms the beauty that this paint board can hold. We want to paint a lot of beautiful colours on it. However, we often have problems with the painting itself.

The process of dreaming up all the things you'd like to achieve in the new year is usually overwhelming. You can see it right in front of you, and your mind has never been clearer.

However, fast forward to two or, to be generous, three months into the year and you've already lapsed. You've fallen back into your pre resolution routine— you've covered the blank paint board with a piece of clothing made of a missed morning of exercise here and there, and you're no longer quite interested in being the Da Vinci of your time.

Sadly, this is something that happens to even the best of us. We are not the greatest at keeping to promises, even those we've made to ourselves. Since resolutions are essentially like that, it is easy to see why it is such a difficult task. But, surely, we aren't lost and blowing in the wind. We know of people who are immensely dedicated and do see through their new year's resolutions. What makes the difference?

Well, to be fair, it's nothing big.

What you need to know is that change doesn't happen over a day. When the eve of the new year comes around, you don't get a sudden infusion of dedication and motivation. New year's day is just 24 hours. In fact, if you did not have a calendar, you wouldn't know which day is which.

What does this tell us? New year resolutions don't have off and on switches. While it's possible, it is not probable that you'll just wake up in the middle of the night, make a decision to make a change in your life and then it is smooth sailing from there.

Now that that is out of the way, how can you stick to your new year resolutions without having to necessarily dive into the deep end?

We have some great tips.

  • First off, you need to dream big, then start small. You must understand that the journey of a thousand miles does start with a step and that even the Mona Lisa took 13 years to paint. This doesn't mean you should procrastinate, it means that you should focus on the little steps— after all, it is individual brushstrokes that make a painting. You should visualise the bigger picture, as it were, but still, focus on the little things you need to do to get there.
  • Another important thing is to break down your resolution into smaller pieces. This gives you a coherent roadmap and tells you where you are, and where you are going to. For example, if your new year's resolution is to lose 20 kilos of weight, you need to break that into smaller, more definite tasks. What does that resolution mean? Do you have to spend 10 hours at the gym every week? Importantly, after breaking your resolution down, you should reward yourself for passing each milestone. For example, after a month of strictly keeping to your diet regimen, perhaps you reward yourself with a Chocolate cake.
  • Achieving anything worthwhile is almost definitely not easy. That's why you'll definitely need some help. When it seems like your motivation is waning and you'd rather not take that extra step to keep to your resolution, extra help can be the push that you need. It's important that you understand the aspects of your resolution that you need the help of others in accomplishing, and it's important that you enlist the help of those people.
  • One of the problems with keeping to new year's resolution is low motivation. After the first few weeks or months of the year, we often are no longer pumped to get on with the task. But even that is a hurdle that you can easily get past, if you know and decide how to deal with it beforehand. Like they say, knowing is half the battle. To deal with flagging motivation, you need to know that it's going to come, and you need to have an antidote when it comes.

Generally speaking, when it comes to resolutions (of any kind) setbacks are normal. It's easy to fall into the trap of forgetting or just simply losing motivation. What is important, though, is that you come back stronger and follow your resolutions through. What's more? You don't have to do it all at once, you simply have to make small, incremental changes.